More than several weeks ago, I competed in my first climbing competition, Passion For Flashin’, at Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul, MN. Let me tell you, I learned some things.
Since this was my first competition, I really didn’t know what to expect. I tried asking some of the employees at Vertical Endeavors how the competition worked and about the rules or anything else I needed to know. Turns out, the two I asked didn’t really know how to explain it either. Awesome. Guess I’m showing up to the competition blind. That didn’t bother me too much; I was pretty confident in my skills, at least enough to not be embarrassed.
Speaking of skills, I have only been climbing for a little over a year. At the time of the Passion for Flashin’ competition, I had only been for a year, almost to the day. Within that time, I progressed to the point where I was competing in the Advanced category, grades 5.10b to 5.11b. I can almost assure Adam Ondra has heard of me.
I show up an hour prior to the official start. I can’t remember why. It was probably the best idea ever at the time. This did give me a chance to look at all the routes and try plan my strategy since you only have a set amount of time to climb as many routes as possible in your category. As I was looking at routes, I wasn’t overly confident that I could get any of them! Even the easiest routes on the card looked hard from the ground. Yikes! I went and looked at the boulder problems and at least the easy one’s there looked really easy. Phew! At least I can get some warm-ups in.
Did I mention how nervous I was? WOW! I’m no stranger to competition. In my previous lives, I was a 3-sport athlete in high school. I was “ok” enough at football to play at a small, Division 3 college. After college I have competed in numerous lifting competitions. Here’s the thing: if I actually care about my placement or the outcome of the “game”, I get super nervous. Not debilitating, can’t function, screw-up all over the place nervous, just heart-bursting, bowel emptying nerves. I was a wreck in hich school before a football game, but as soon as I’d step on the field for warm-ups, they disappeared. I was hoping that would happen here after the first route. Nuh-uh! The nerves didn’t completely go away until I was climbing my last few routes. Guess I cared about the outcome more than I thought.
I warmed up with a super easy, juggy boulder problem. It incorporated some gratuitous heel hooks, but I experienced after the competition, when there were no judges involved, the whole route was easily campused. Then I went to the next, only slightly less juggy boulder problem. After that, I got some beta from Youth Female ABS Bouldering Champion Kyra Kondie on the boulder problems in the other area. She said the hardest one was pretty easy. Yeah. Easy. To the bouldering champion of the U.S.
I guess she was right. All-in-all, I flashed the first 4 boulder problems I attempted, which also happened to be the 4 most difficult on my card. It was nothing but super duper easy boulder problems after that, but I wasn’t going to waste my energy on those. I had some walls to climb!
Just as I was getting the nerves out of my system, they came back with a vengeance. I watched several people climb on several different routes before I finally chose my first route. It looked to be a pretty easy 5.10 (though, none of the route’s ratings were displayed) with one crux move, which was nothing more than having strong enough hands to support yourself on open handed pinches. I got this!
Then it was on to the passion route. Or maybe it was called the heart route. I don’t know. I literally made up both of those names as I typed them. There was a big-ass heart in the middle of the wall so I’ll let you come up with your own name. That route was a stemmy, scrunchy, Philly-fakeout, sloper kinda thing with a direct roof pull nonetheless. It was probably my favorite, much like smiling.
The route after that was on a completely angled wall with a traverse dyno right at the beginning. I made the dyno the first time, no problem because my calves get angry, but then I screwed up my sequence shortly thereafter. This was the first route I didn’t flash. No worries. I got it on my second try.
I’m not going to go through every route, but they were a lot of fun. My favorite was one that started out in a cave that put me completely inverted for the first 3 moves. After that, I campused my way down, almost back to the ground, where the route “restarted” on the climb up. There were some really fun moves and strong pulls over a small roof I had to make. In my opinion, a perfect balance of technique and strength.
All in all, I flashed all but 3 of the routes I attempted, and I flashed all of the boulder problems. Surely that will get me in the finals, right? Not true. The key word being “attempted”. Because I wasn’t completely aware of the strategery of this event, I ran out of time. I took some poorly placed breaks between some of my climbs. I didn’t realize that those breaks in addition to having to wait in line for routes really add up. I got 5 out of the 8 hardest top-ropes, maybe 4 or 5 more intermediate routes, and ended up skipping all of the super easy ones. And by “skip”, I mean “ran out of time”. DAMNIT!
I finished 18th out of 43. I’ve no doubts that could have been higher. Who knows, I may have gotten to the finals. But, if I had, I can damn near guarantee that I’d be too pumped out to accomplish anything good. This was by far the most routes I’ve climbed in a single day. I was sore for a week after. You can imagine my stupidity of trying to climb the very next day. Which was also humbling because I saw 8 of the 12 finalists in the gym that very same day climbing like it was any other day of the week. Guess that’s why they were finalists and winners.
Can’t wait for the next competition!